Design guru Don Norman’s shortlist of everything wrong with the internet

When usability pioneers have All the Feels about the nature of our creeping technological dystopia, how we got here, and what we might need to do to right the ship, it’s wise to pay attention. Don Norman’s preaching resonated with my choir, and they’ve asked me to sing a summary song of our people in bulleted list format:

  • What seemed like a virtuous thing at the time — building the internet with an ethos of trust and openness — has led to a travesty via lack of security, because no one took bad actors into account.
  • Google, Facebook, et al didn’t have the advertising business model in mind a priori, but sort of stumbled into it and got carried away giving advertisers what they wanted — more information about users — without really taking into consideration the boundary violations of appropriating people’s information. (see Shoshana Zuboff’s definitive new book on Surveillance Capitalism for a lot more on this topic)
  • Tech companies have mined the psychological sciences for techniques that — especially at scale — border on mass manipulation of fundamental human drives to be informed and to belong. Beyond the creepy Orwellian slant of information appropriation and emotional manipulation, the loss of productivity and mental focus from years of constant interruptions takes a toll on society at large.
  • We sign an interminable series of EULAs, ToS’s and other lengthy legalese-ridden agreements just to access the now basic utilities that enable our lives. Experts refer to these as “contracts of adhesion” or “click-wrap,” as a way of connoting the “obvious lack of meaningful consent.” (Zuboff)
  • The “bubble effect” — the internet allows one to surround oneself completely with like-minded opinions and avoid ever being exposed to alternative points of view. This has existential implications for being able to inhabit a shared reality, as well as a deleterious effect on public discourse, civility, and the democratic process itself.
  • The extreme commercialization of almost all of our information sources is problematic, especially in the age of the “Milton Friedman-ification” of the economic world and the skewing of values away from communities and individuals, towards a myopic view of shareholder value and all the attendant perverse incentives that accompany this philosophical business shift over the past 50 years. He notes that the original public-spiritedness of new communication technologies has historically been co-opted by corporate lobbyists via regulatory capture — a subject Tim Wu explores in-depth in his excellent 2011 book, “The Master Switch: The Rise and Fall of Information Empires.

Is it all bleak, Don?! His answer is clear: “yes, maybe, no.” He demurs on positing a definitive answer to all of these issues, but he doesn’t really mince words about a “hunch” that it may in fact involve burning it all down and starting over again.

Pointing to evolution, Norman notes that we cannot eke radical innovation out of incremental changes — and that when radical change does happen it is often imposed unexpectedly from the outside in the form of catastrophic events. Perhaps if we can’t manage to Marie Kondo our way to a more joyful internet, we’ll have to pray for Armageddon soon…?! đŸ˜±

RussiaGate Lexicon: Terminology for the New Cold War

Did Russia hack the 2016 US election? Most certainly. The FBI, CIA, and entire intelligence community is in agreement on this point.

The following list is an attempt to demystify the language surrounding Russian interference in the election of Donald Trump, and Vladimir Putin’s efforts to undermine the Western order — in retaliation for the fall of the Soviet Union which happened under his watch as a young KGB agent stationed in Dresden, Germany.

See also: the RussiaGate Bestiary which lists the individuals involved in the Russian 2016 election interference investigation. Please note: both of these resources are works in progress and are being updated frequently.

4chanA notorious internet message board with an unruly culture capable of trolling, pranks, and crimes.
8chanIf 4chan isn’t raw and lawless enough for you, try the even more right-wing “free speech”-haven 8chan, which is notorious for incubating a large swath of the Gamergate culture.
The ActLas Vegas nightclub in the Palazzo, owned by Sheldon Adelson, under surveillance by the Nevada Gaming Control Board for obscene performances. Site of the Miss USA pageant party attended by Trump and the Agalarov’s in June 2013.
active measuresinformation warfare aimed at undermining the West
Air Force OneThe U.S. presidential plane.
art critic in civilian clothing“joke” used by the KGB to refer to themselves while informing on dissidents under Soviet rule
backdoora method, often secret, of bypassing regular login authentication or encryption of a computer or server
Bakucapital of Azerbaijan
banana republicpolitically unstable countries whose economies are monocultures controlled by an oligarchy; puppet states
Bank Secrecy ActLegal statute requiring persons managing funds in excess of $10,000 in foreign banks disclose said accounts to the US Treasury.
bespredel“limitless and total lack of accountability of the elite oligarchs”
blind trustA financial trust in which the beneficiaries have no access to the holdings of the trust, or any knowledge of its investments and contents
Bolotnaya SquareThe square was the site of the biggest protests in Russia since the Soviet era, in December 2011
BolshevikThe majority faction within the Marxist revolutionary party led by Vladimir Lenin to power in Russia during the October Revolution of 1917, eventually becoming the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.
bolt holeA type of retreat or refuge for those in the survivalist subculture, to be absconded to in case of disaster or apocalypse.
BNDGerman foreign intelligence agency
bug-out location (BOL)Another name for a bolt hole or survivalist refuge location.
CalexitMovement to split the state of Californnia into East and West states
capital flightRefers to the massive ongoing exodus of both legitimate and illegitimate funds of Russian oligarchs and their state cronies to “safe havens” in foreign banks and offshore accounts outside of Russia
Charter 77Informal Czech resistance movement against the communist regime, named after a document that was deemed a political crime to distribute.
ChekismLoyalty to the concept of an unbroken chain of Russian security services, all the way from Lenin’s Cheka to the KGB to the FSB
Chronicle of Current EventsSoviet dissident periodical (samizdat) from 1968 to the early 1980s that reported on the human rights violations in the Soviet Union
Cold War
Color Revolutions
computational propaganda
cooperating witness
CPACConservative Political Action Conference
CPSUCommunist Party of the Soviet Union
Crimeaterritory in eastern Ukraine invaded and “annexed” by Putin in 2014; unrecognized and condemned by the international community
criminal investigation
Crocus City Hall7000-seat theater complex in Moscow built by Aras Agalarov; site of the 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Moscow
Cuban Missile Crisis
cut out
cyberspies
Cyprus
DACA
dachacountry estate
Dark Web
deep stateNetworks of opposition within governments who undermine the official regime
demoshizashort for ‘democratic schizophrenics’
deposition
dĂ©tentestrategy of easing geopolitical tensions between nations; used in particular to describe attempts to “cool off” antagonism during the Cold War
dezinformatsiyaRussian information warfare
diaspora
disinformation
DonbasTerritory in eastern Ukraine where Russian aggression has resumed as of Jan 29, 2017 following two years of Minsk Two ceasefire agreement
Doomsday Clock
doxingresearching and broadcasting personally identifiable information about an individual
Dumathe lower house of the Federal Assembly, Russia’s Parliament
Echo MoskvyDemocratic radio station in Moscow seminal is thwarting the KGB-led coup against Gorbachev in 1991
“Eternal Rome”ideology positing Russia as a geopolitical bulwark of conservatism against a weak-kneed West (part of Alexander Dugin’s reformulation of Eurasianism theory)
Evening Internetthe first blog in Russia, founded by Anton Nossik
executive privilege
fake news
fallout shelter
false flagcovert operations designed to deceive by appearing as though they are carried out by other entities, groups, or nations than those who actually executed them
FAPSIOne of the agencies spun out from the former KGB to head Govt Comms & Info (modeled after the NSA) — this division was instrumental in controlling the unfolding of the Russian internet
Federal AssemblyRussian Parliament
fifth column
fifth world warnon-linear war; the war of all against all
Financial Crimes Enforcement NEtwork (FinCEN)Department within the Treasury that handles and maiontains FBAR filings from US persons holding in excess of $10,000 in foreign banks.
FISA Court
FISA warrant
Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA)Legal statute requiring those persons lobbying on behalf of a foreign government or other entity to register such with the U.S. government.
foreign bank account report (FBAR)Required disclosure to the US treasury by persons holding in excess of $10,000 in funds in foreign banks.
forensics
FreedomFestConservative evangelical event annually in Las Vegas
frozen conflict zonesterm for several unrecognized pseudo states within former Soviet territories who have broken away from the national government and are operating as Russian protectorates
FSBthe Russian Federal Security Service
GamerGate
Gazeta.ru
GazpromRussia’s energy monopolgy and largest gas company
Georgia
Ghost StoriesFBI operation allowing a sleeper cell of 10 KGB spies to operate in the U.S. for 10 years, to reverse engineer their methods. At the end of the sting, FBI Director Robert Mueller rounded them all up and expelled them from the country.
glasnost“increased government transparency” or openness — a slogan employed by Mikhail Gorbachev, Soviet leader in the 1980s
Glavplakat
“global cabal”euphemism in far-right Russian discourse to refer to a perceived “Jewish conspiracy” behind the international order of institutions like NATO and the EU
globalization
Grand Jury16 to 23 people impaneled to hear evidence from a legal prosecution, and decide if said prosecution has a caseworthy set of evidence to bring charges.
Grenadines
honeypot
hybrid warfare
IC (Intelligence Community)
iMessageApple’s version of SMS
information warfare
interlocuter
IRC
IskraThe main Bolshevik newspaper in the early 20th century
Jackson–Vanik amendment to the Trade Act of 1974
kakistocracy
KGBThe Soviet secret service, renowned for ruthlessness and duplicity
kleptocracyform of government in which the leaders harbor organized crime rings and often participate in or lead them; the police, military, civil government, and other governmental agencies may routinely participate in illicit activities and enterprises.
KommersantLong-respected business newspaper purchased by pro-Kremlin oligarch Alisher Usmanov
kompromatcompromising material on a head of state or other important figure; typically used for blackmail purposes
KomsomolLeninist Youth League organization for Communists aged 14 to 28 in the late 80s & early 90s
The Kremlin
Kuchinothe oldest top-secret research facility of the KGB, 12 miles east of Moscow
Kurchatov InstitutePreeminent Soviet nuclear research facility still in operation today in the far north of Moscow
Latvia
Lenta.ru
liberalismPolitical and ethical framework based on individual liberty via human rights and equal protection
Logan Act
lords on the boards
Mafia stateA systematic corruption of government by organized crime syndicates.
Magnitsky Act
Maidan revolutionStudent protests that ousted the Ukranian President Viktor Yanukovych, that started Nov 21, 2013.
Marxism
maskirovkawar of deception and concealment
Menatep
Menshevik
Minsk TwoColloquial name of the 2015 ceasefire agreement between Russia & Ukraine following the annexation of Crimea
Mitrokhin Archive
Mokhovaya Squarewell-known landmark in front of the Kremlin
MSK-IXThe main Internet exchange point in Russia
MVDMinistry of Internal Affairs; supervises all police, prisons, and “public order militias”
nationalism
National Prayer Breakfast
neutralize
Never-Trump
Newsru.com
NKVDa forerunner to the KGB under Stalin
non-linear warfare
NotPetya
novichokmilitary-grade nerve agent developed by Russia and used in the poisoning of former FSB agent turned Putin critic Andrei Skripal and his daughter in Lonson in March, 2018
Novorossiaregion of eastern Ukraine occupied by Russian separatists
October Revolutionthe Nov 7, 1917 Bolshevik revolution and armed overthrow of the government, leading to the creation of the USSR
October Surprise
oligarchy
one-party state
open source intelligence
operatives
opposhort form of opposition research
opposition research
OSINTopen source intelligence
OstankinoRussia’s TV network
Ozero Cooperative
perestroikapolicy of restructuring or rebuilding the Soviet government, employed by Mikhail Gorbachev in the 1980s
plausible deniability
plea deal
plead the Fifth
Plovdiv, BulgariaSafe “bolt hole” identified for Eastern European hackers paid by Trump and the Kremlin if things went south
ponyatiyaan unwritten understanding about how things must be done
populism
postmodernism
“post office boxes”Secret Soviet military and security research facilities, known only to the public by their P.O. Box number
post-truth
power grid intrusions
Prague, Czech Republic
proizvolRussian word for “arbitrariness”
Project LakhtaInternal name for the operation that Prigozhin’s IRA was running to interfere in elections across the Western world, according to the Mueller indictments.
Project Ripon
propaganda
provokatsiya
RedditAmerican social network inhabited by numerous denizens of the alt-Right and hosting notoriously grotesque subreddits.
refuseniksTerm given during the Soviet era, particularly under Stalin, for Jews who had been denied permission to emigrate
reiding
RelcomOne of the first private companies or “collectives” formed under Gorbachev’s glasnost reforms, it brokered the first proto-Internet within the Soviet Union and first connection to the outside world — playing a key role in thwarting the attempted coup against Gorbachev by the KGB in August, 1991
rent-a-peer
Rodinaextreme nationalist party in Russia c. 2003 that hinted at ethnic cleansing; The Guardian reported it had actually been set up as a prop by Putin & cronies, to draw votes away from the other far-right Communist Party
RosatomRussian company building Turkey’s first nuclear plant
Rose RevolutionPeaceful protest-driven pro-Western transfer of power in the former Soviet state of Georgia in Nov 2003
RosneftRussia’s state oil company
Rossiiskaia GazetaRussia’s official government newspaper
RT.comstate-owned Russian news service
Rublevkabillionaire’s row in Moscow
Russian Imperial Movementpart of the far-right coalition within Russia seeking to build an international consensus, this group advocates “Christian Orthodox imperial nationalism”
RussophobiaPopular hysteria against Russia and Russians perceived to be the case by Russia and Russians
samizdatin the Soviet era, the creation by hand and distribution of copies of literature and other material banned by the state
SberbankRussia’s largest bank
SDNs (specially designated nationals)Individuals against whom secondary sanctions have been applied
The Seychelles
shadow profilesData that Facebook collects on people who are not members of Facebook, via association with their friends who are
shestidesiatniki“Sixties’ Generation” in the Soviet Union, who shared a lot in common with the American New Left. Advocated for political reform.
Siemens AG
silovikiRussian term for those who have backgrounds and employment in security services, the military, and police; more specifically a reference to Putin’s security cabal
Signal
sistemaRussian term to denote “how the government really works” (as opposed to via formal state institutions)
SJWSocial Justice Warriors, a term which has somehow been wielded as a pejorative by alt-righters and other radical right cadre, energing out of Gamergate culture.
SMSAka “texting”
Snow Revolutionpopular protests beginning in Moscow in 2011, demanding the reinstatement of free elections & the ability to form opposition parties
sockpuppet accountsFake social media accounts used by trolls for deceptive and covert actions, avoiding culpability for abuse, aggression, death threats, doxxing, and other criminal acts against targets.
SolidarityPolish workers’ party confronting Communism in the late ’80s
SORMSystem of Operative Search Measures — the system in use by the FSB to eavesdrop on the Russian internet
South Stream pipeline Gazprom project through Balkans and Central Europe
“sovereign democracy”system in which democratic procedures are retained, but without any actual democratic freedoms; brainchild of Vladislav Surkov
sovereign wealth fund
spasitelniiRussian word for “redemptive”
SputnikRussian news wire proffering fake news
StasiNickname for the Ministry of State Security in East Germany during the Cold War
Steele dossier
stochastic terrorism
Stoleshnikov Lanepedestrian street in Moscow lined with designer boutiques
St. PetersburgLocation of the headquarters for the IRA, Internet Research Agency, aka Putin’s troll farm, at 55 Savushkina Street.
Strana.ru
subpoena
SUP MediaRussia’s largest blogging service via acquisition of LiveJournal from Six Apart
SVRRussian foreign intelligence service
swattinghoaxed reports to emergency services intended to provoke a SWAT team response at the target’s home; a form of Internet-based attack used by Gamergate, the alt-Right, and other groups and individuals
tax returns
The ThawBrief period of reform under Nikita Khrushchev between 1956 and 1964, when Khrushchev takes over from Stalin and is replaced by Leonid Brezhnev
tradecraft
“translator project”
trial balloonInformation put out or leaked to the media to gauge public reaction.
Trump Tower MoscowThen-candidate Trump signed a letter of intent to move forward with this project, while at the same time denying its existence publicly, repeatedly.
truthiness
Turkish StreamProposed gas pipeline allowing Russia to extend its control over Turkey and European energy markets
Ukranian occupation
unmaskingIntelligence protocol redacting American identities from transcripts of foreign intercepts
USPER
Velvet Revolution
vertical of powerreference to the tightly controlled power cabal structure Putin has amassed around himself
vKontakteRussian social network; equivalent analog to Facebook
vlastpower
VTBRussia’s largest commercial bank
wag the dog
watering holehacker attacks that infect entire websites
whataboutismClassic debate tactic of old Soviet apologists to deflect criticism of Soviet policy; whenever an American would levy a critique, the response would be, “What about the bad things America does?”
white knights
white nationalism
Wolf Creek Nuclear Operating Corporation
World National-Conservatism Movement (WNCM)umbrella term for Russia’s movement to unite an international extreme far-right coalition
Yes CaliforniaMovement to secede from the US entirely, run by Marcus Ruiz Evans, Louis J. Marinelli
Yukos
zakaznews information that has been paid for by special interest

Putin’s Playbook: Pull factions apart from center; exacerbate democratic crisis

While we wring our hands in the United States over whether or not such a strategy is even conceivable, the erstwhile President of Russia has been running this playbook out in the open in Ukraine and Eastern Europe for some time. With help from Propagandist-in-Chief Vladislav Surkov, Putin has leveraged the open secrets about the psychology of crowds we learned in the late 19th and early 20th century to stir up emotional antagonisms within the political spectrum — to predictable results.

It’s no accident that fascism is on the march in America. The conditions have been brewing for some time, predominantly since the Conservative movement began breaking away more militantly from democratic principles and towards authoritarian philosophy (elite rule by force: preferably invisible force via economic hegemony for the middle and upper classes, and violent force / the carceral state for The Undesirables) in the late 1970s and 1980s. All Putin had to do was make use of available prevailing conditions and tools — the rise of social media in the 2000s counterintuitively blew a gaping wide security hole in the American persuasion landscape that Cold War Soviet operatives of the 1960s would scarcely have believed.

Today, as in parts of Europe between the world wars, the U.S. has partisan gridlock within The Establishment sector of politics; this exacerbates the impatience with and contempt for the status quo (aka the Liberal world order) that in some sense naturally congeals at the far right and far left margins of the political spectrum as a simple consequence of the Normal Distribution (the Median Voter Theorem captures this tendency quite succinctly). Under such conditions, an influence campaign like the one Russia wielded against the United States during the 2016 election season was tasked merely with tilting the playing field a little further — a task that platforms like Facebook and Twitter were in some sense fundamentally engineered to accomplish, in exchange for ad revenue.

New World Order? Be careful what we wish for

“Both Italian and German fascists had done their best to make democracy work badly. But the deadlock of liberal constitutions was not something the fascists alone had brought about. ‘The collapse of the Liberal state,’ says Roberto Vivarelli, ‘occurred independently of fascism.’ At the time it was tempting to see the malfunction of democratic government after 1918 as a systemic crisis marking the historic terminus of liberalism. Since the revival of constitutional democracy since World War II, it has seemed more plausible to see it as a circumstantial crisis growing out of the strains of World War I, a sudden enlargement of democracy, and the Bolshevik Revolution. However we interpret the deadlock of democratic government, no fascist movement is likely to reach office without it.”

— Robert O. Paxton, The Anatomy of Fascism

100 years on, it feels like we’re back at the start.

A Field Guide to Identifying Bots on Twitter

While multiple formal investigations against the Trump family and administration continue to unfold, and Drumpf supporters weirdly deny the probable cause for concern, Putin’s troll army continues to operate out in the open on Twitter, Facebook, Medium, and other social media networks. The sheer scale of this operation started to become clear to me in the months leading up to Election 2016, having both spent a lot of time on social media both professionally and personally for over a decade as well as a hefty amount of time on political investigation during this presidential cycle.

Whatever your thoughts on #RussiaGate may be, it should concern any citizen that an enormous group of bad actors is working together to infiltrate American social media, with a specific intent to sway politics. Media literacy is one part of the answer, but we’re going to need new tools to help us identify accounts that are only present in bad faith to political discourse: they are not who they claim to be, and their real goals are kept carefully opaque.

Cold War 2.0

We should consider our nation embroiled in a large international game of psychological warfare, or PsyOps as it is referred to in intelligence circles. The goal is to sow disinformation as widely as possible, such that it becomes very difficult to discern what separates truth from propaganda. A secondary goal is to sow dissent among the citizenry, particularly to rile up the extremist factions within America’s two dominant political parties in an attempt to pull the political sphere apart from the center. 

We didn’t really need much help in that department as it is, with deep partisan fault lines having been open as gaping wounds on the American political landscape for some decades now — so the dramatically escalated troll army operation has acted as an intense catalyst for further igniting the power kegs being stored up between conservatives and progressives in this country.

Luckily there are some ways to help defray the opposition’s ability to distract and spread disinfo by identifying the signatures given off by suspicious accounts. I’ve developed a few ways to evaluate whether a given account may be a participant in paid propaganda, or at least is likely to be misrepresenting who they say they are, and what their agenda is. 
Sometimes it’s fun to get embroiled in a heated “tweetoff,” but I’ve noticed how easy it is to feel “triggered” by something someone says online and how the opposition is effectively “hacking” that tendency to drag well-meaning people into pointless back-and-forths designed not to defend a point of view, but simply to waste an activist’s time, demoralize them, and occupy the focus — a focus that could be better spent elsewhere on Real Politics with real citizens who in some way care about their country and their lives.

Twitter Bot “Tells”

1) Hyper-patriotism

– Conspicuously hyper-patriotic bio (and often, name)  – Posts predominantly anti-Democrat, anti-liberal/libtard, anti-Clinton, anti-Sanders, anti-antifa etc. memes:


2) Hyper-Christianity

– Conspicuously hyper-Christian in bio and/or name: 


3) Abnormally high tweet volume

Seems to tweet &/or RT constantly without breaks — supporting evidence of use of a scheduler tool at minimum, and displaying obviously automated responses from some accounts. The above account, for example, started less than 2 years ago, has tweeted 15,000 more times than I have in over 10 years of frequent use (28K). Most normal people don’t schedule their tweets — but marketers and PR people do.


4) Posts only about politics and one other thing (usually a sport)

– Posts exclusively about politics and potentially one other primary “normie” topic, which is often a sport – May proclaim to be staunchly not “politically correct”:


5) Hates Twitter Lists

– Strange aversion to being added to Lists, or making Lists of their own:


6) Overuse of hashtags 

– Uses hashtags more than normal, non-marketing people usually do:


7) Pushes a one-dimensional message

– Seems ultimately too one-dimensional and predictable to reflect a real personality, and/or too vaguely similar to the formula:


8) Redundant tweets

– Most obviously of all, it retweets the same thing over and over again:


9) Rehashes a familiar set of memes

– Tweets predominantly about a predictable set of memes:

Mismatched location and time zone is another “tell” — and although you can’t get the second piece of data from the public profile, it is available from the Twitter API. If you know Python and/or feel adventurous, I’m sharing an earlier version of the above tool on Github (and need to get around to pushing the latest version…) — and if you know of any other “tells” please share by commenting or tweeting at me. Next bits I want to work on include:

  • Examining follower & followed networks against a matchlist of usual suspect accounts
  • Looking at percentage of Cyrillic characters in use
  • Graphing tweet volume over time to identify “bot” and “cyborg” periods
  • Looking at “burst velocity” of opposition tweets as bot networks are engaged to boost messages
  • Digging deeper into the overlap between the far-right and far-left as similar memes are implanted and travel through both “sides” of the networks

On the dangers of attacking the media in a democratic republic

“The most dangerous ‘enemy of the people’ is presidential lying–always. Attacks on press by @realDonaldTrump more treacherous than Nixon’s”
Carl Bernstein, journalist who broke the Watergate scandal  


“These systematic attacks on the media accomplish two things. First, they fire up the base, which believe that traditional media do not represent their interests or concerns. Second, they provoke the media itself, which feeling threatened, adopts a more oppositional posture. This in turn further fuels the polarization on which the leaders depend and paves the way for the government to introduce legal restrictions.

The most dramatic example was in Venezuela, where elements in the media embarked on a campaign of open warfare, engaging in overtly partisan coverage intended to undermine ChĂĄvez’s rule. Some media owners were alleged to have conspired in a 2002 coup that briefly ousted the president. Once Chavez returned to power, he rallied his supporters behind a new law imposing broad restrictions on what the media could and could not cover under the guise of “ensuring the right to truthful information.” Across the hemisphere, other restrictive legal measures were adopted, including Ecuador’s notorious 2013 Communications Law, which criminalizes the failure to cover events of public interest, as defined by the government. In the first year, approximately 100 lawsuits were filed under the law, stifling critical reporting.”
Columbia Journalism Review


“Brian Stelter, in his Reliable Sources newsletter, rounds up elite-media Twitter reaction:

  • NPR’s Steve Inskeep: “A journalist is a citizen. Who informs other citizens, as free citizens need. Some are killed doing it …” NYT’s Maggie Haberman: “He is fighting very low approval ratings. Gonna be interesting to see how congressional Rs respond to this tweet”
  • Joe Scarborough: “Conservatives, feel free to speak up for the Constitution anytime the mood strikes. It is time”
  • NBC’s Chuck Todd: “I would hope that our leaders would never believe that any American desires to make another American an enemy. Let’s dial it back.”

At the same time, understand that this is partly a game to Trump. His confidants tell us he intentionally exploits the media’s inclination to take the bait and chase our tails.”
Axios


John McCain:
“… slammed President Donald Trump’s attacks on the media this week by noting dictators “get started by suppressing free press.”
It was a startling observation from a sitting member of Congress against the President of the United States, especially considering McCain is a member of Trump’s party.

“I hate the press,” the Arizona Republican sarcastically told NBC News’ Chuck Todd on “Meet the Press.” “I hate you especially. But the fact is we need you. We need a free press. We must have it. It’s vital.”

But he continued, “If you want to preserve — I’m very serious now — if you want to preserve democracy as we know it, you have to have a free and many times adversarial press,” McCain said in the interview. “And without it, I am afraid that we would lose so much of our individual liberties over time. That’s how dictators get started.”


Evan McMullin:
“Authoritarians routinely attack checks on their power and sources… Donald Trump does exactly that.”
http://www.cnn.com/videos/tv/2017/02/05/are-trumps-attacks-on-media-authoritarian.cnn

On the upsides of being underestimated, and a call to stand

There’s something those of us in marginalized groups know instinctively, having lived lives long in opposition to a dizzying continuum of Absurd Moral Authority: from outright violence, to secretive “technical” manipulations of statutes designed to erode or remove rights, to vague and carefully unstated “wink wink nudge nudge” moments from individuals of authority who had some power to constrain us — whether it’s a boss (or potential boss), a teacher, a community figure, and/or perhaps most guttingly a family member.

We know the sting of being scolded for even daring an attempt at upsetting the Tautological Supremacist Meritocracy: “If you weren’t worthless, you’d already be here by now!”

The British thought we would just roll over too

But we should remember one of the primary reasons that we as a nation even won our independence in the first place:

We were underestimated.

Lord North offered tax relief to the colonies that would help “defend the motherland” in February, 1775 — none took him up on it. And in fact, the Conciliatory Resolution only deepened the growing sense of unity emerging against what increasingly became perceived as a Common Enemy. The attempt to divide and conquer not only failed, but backfired.

The British Parliament thought the colonists full of hot air — that a few shows of military force would quickly crumble the upstart radicals in their quest for representation and rights. But battles at Lexington and Concord only fueled further the sentiment that the colonies were inhabited by an occupying force that must be resisted.

It was widely thought to be insane to stand against the world-renowned military force of the British Empire — but the Continental Army under George Washington doggedly turned the fact of underestimation to their advantage via innovative battlefield strategy. The motherland, finding it difficult to raise sufficient troops to fight against their own former countrymen, hired German mercenaries to fight against the colonists — further deepening the resolve of the Americans to throw off an oppressor willing to bring foreign assassins to bear in a dispute formerly perceived as a conciliatory process of achieving the basic rights of citizenship that colonists’ forbears once enjoyed in England. The British overestimation of Loyalist support — combined with the general mistreatment of those who did cross the “revolutionary picket line” — only added to the troubles faced by a predominantly naval power slogging through a lengthy land war over vast territory.

Diversity does not preclude uniting to face a Common Enemy

In so many ways we’ve become more fragmented; more balkanized; more atomized in modern society. We’ve self-selected into our communities of shared values and our social media bubbles. In many ways this is the paradox of prosperity, and the Catch-22 of progress.

We may feel stronger in our own foxholes, but there comes a time when the whole choir must sing together. Now is that time.

And perhaps it is dangerous to use the language of war, and of conflict — or perhaps it may help us to better identify where our Common Enemy lies. Our Common Enemy is not the down at heel rural Trump supporter who lashes out at us in fear, and in retaliation — though their words are often hateful, these people have been misled.

It’s a very old story — older than Trump; older than George W. Bush; older than Reagan or Nixon or Coolidge or Jackson or Johnson. The wealthy white elite has a centuries’ old playbook of dangling so-called Christian morality in front of those whites left most destitute by the former’s economic policies — and winning.

We are watching reruns.

This time, fascism and foreign influence have been added to up the ante — keeping even the most blasĂ© among us glued to our seats.

Stand up

The framers of our Constitution deliberated, debated, and agonized over the most ideal structure to support a broad pluralist power, in concerted opposition to the monarchies and aristocracies of the past. Many were shocked by — and fought bitterly against — the unprecedented act of beginning such a governing document with the words, “We the people.”
But 85 Federalist Papers later, our sovereign power was enshrined in the document that still governs our ambitions today — and acts as a backstop against those who would wield tyrannical power in our name. 

Our Common Enemy is tyranny, and we must learn to recognize where it lives, and how it acts. Even — perhaps especially — when that domicile is the White House, and that act an act of Congress.

Our Common Enemy is those who would deny the power of the people to govern themselves: through the silencing of debate in a once great forum; through casual disregard of the judiciary branch; through an endless parade of troglodyte efforts at voter suppression.

Our Common Enemy is the long litany of elected officials who act in their own best interests at the expense of We the People. It is the slew of slick sycophants currying political favor with the powerful, who continually rewrite the rules of the game the Winners have already Won many times over, to accelerate the gaping gulf of inequality that threatens democracy, liberty, justice, and most certainly peace.

Without Justice there can be no Peace.

And those who wield injustice have vastly underestimated the swaths of citizenry who can see through the ruse; who have heard the old story and seen its outcomes; who are tired of having to wage the same struggles for rights and respect over, and over, and over again.

But the tired gain strength through camaraderie in adversity; through simple acts of kindness; through humor, and through love.

These are tools the tyrannical cannot access.
Stand, and wield them, in the name of We the People.

British filmmaker Adam Curtis explains what’s going on

The creator of the also excellent Century of the Self film series released his latest film in October, 2016. Dubbed HyperNormalisation, it offers both a history lesson of the complicated relationship between the West, the Middle East, and Russia, as well as an unflinching look at the roles played by technology, surveillance, and the media on our modern condition of general confusion, destabilization, and surrealism.

A timeline of recent Russian aggression

It’s getting harder to tell anymore who is being paid to push pro-Russian messages, and who has just been sadly taken in by them. For all this braggadocio (braggadocious, even!) about “building a wall” to keep supposed Mexican rapists out (although net migration has been falling with our southern neighbor for some time and is now net negative), no matter what the outcome of next Tuesday’s election, the “borders” around the internet will remain difficult — if not impossible — to police for the foreseeable future.

This all makes our breathless, behind-closed-doors hand-wringing over Soviet Communist influence over the population in the 1960s seem like child’s play. No need to train up a double agent over a lifetime and infiltrate the corridors of state power anymore — just fire up Twitter (or Medium).

It thus probably shouldn’t be as shocking as it has been to find the pro-Russian lovefest coming just as hard from the far-left as it has from the far-right. It stems from a good place (for the most part): a heartfelt desire for peace and the youthful misunderstanding of how difficult (read: impossible) that has been to achieve throughout history. Still, we always want to believe we’ve cracked the nut — that Mutually Assured Destruction now keeps us safe from all the power-hungry demons of the world.

Unfortunately, the Cold War is thawing. With the Russian economy reportedly in dire straits thanks to fragile over-reliance on oil and gas production combined with the precipitous drop in oil prices over the past 18 months, Putin is in a state. A state of keeping the angry ailing Russian classes distracted by the drums of war, while aiming to keep the pampered, self-absorbed American classes distracted from the drums of war. So far to great success — at least on the latter front. It’s hard to speak to the former, although all the paid trolls do seem mighty angry.

Since we can barely pull our heads out of our navels in the U.S. to remember there’s a whole other world outside of our Big Orange Terror Bubble (which is by turns understandable and deeply concerning), I wanted to record here a timeline of events in the lead-up to where we are today (re-purposed from this post with some additional backstory on the Green Party candidate’s Jill Stein involvement with Putin):

This doesn’t include any of the “soft” lobs like the cheeky offers to monitor our elections, or the material connections to the alt-right movement here as well as the swell of right-wing political insurgencies around the world.

Perhaps history will one day show that the deepest destruction wrought by globalization was not the disintegration of America’s manufacturing sector, nor its incentivization of capital flight, but its damage to the last pillars of an aging democratic architecture slowly corroded by neoliberal economic policies in fashion since the Reagan years.

If any history still remains.